As all Philadelphia Phillies fans know, the bullpen has been an area of pressing concern year after year. My friends and colleagues, David Esser and Kevin Dickson, put it best when they named their podcast “Bullpen Blues;” the Phillies bullpen has just been bleak in recent memory.
Since 2019, Philadelphia has had the second-worst bullpen ERA in the entire league (5.20). In that span, they have a league-worst 1.55 HR/9 innings. Mix in the fact that they used a record-breaking number of relievers in that span and a laundry list of other stats, and it’s no secret that Dave Dombrowski has some work to do this offseason.
*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs
He has kicked it off on the right foot, however, and has focused nearly all the signings (so far) on the bullpen. Here’s a quick round-up of all of the more notable signings as of now:
Newest Phillies Signings
Maples is the most recent signing by the Phillies, and reported to Spring Training on the same day he was signed.
Throughout his career, he’s been up and down between the majors and minor league. Most recently, he made 28 appearances in 2021, totaling 31.1 innings en route to a 2.59 ERA with the Chicago Cubs.
The right-hander is very unique. He’s right up the Phillies’ alley- a guy who has a ton of upside, but has had more struggles than not during his career. He has some filthy offspeed stuff, but often lacks command.
I’d imagine that he has a good chance to crack the opening day roster, but he’ll more likely than not be one of the relievers on a yo-yo. Chances are that you’ll see his name in the Phillies’ transaction tweet almost on a daily basis. However, he’s a nice little, underrated signing. Maples adds some solid depth to both the minor and major league roster and brings a good upside.
Next up on the list is Brad Hand, as the Phillies add to their collection of left-handed pitchers to come in for relief. On this past Monday, Hand and the Phillies finalized a deal that gave him a one-year, $6 million contract for 2022.
As my colleague, Mike Cornaglia pointed out when Hand first signed, “Hand spent time with three teams in 2021. He had started the season with the Nationals, signing there as a free agent in January 2021. He was later traded to the Toronto Blue Jays before the trade deadline. He was then cut a month later and finished the season with the New York Mets.”
His career numbers are very consistent with a 7th or 8th inning set up guy, but he has been used as a closer in the past. He showcases a 3.68 career ERA with 685 strikeouts, 126 saves and 32 wins.
Given that Joe Girardi has come out and mentioned that Corey Knebel will be the Phillies’ closer for the future, let’s hope that gives Hand the chance to thrive in a less pressure, set-up guy, type of role.
The Phillies started off their chaotic weekend of signings by picking up Jeurys Familia only a couple of days prior to signing Hand. Familia was also the Phillies first official signing since the lockout ended.
The best comparison to Familia would be a right-handed Jose Alvarado. As we know with Alvarado, this leads to issues with control and command, but strikeouts come at a surplus.
As my colleague Alec Kostival pointed out when the Phils signed Familia, he was fairly average in 2021 with a 3.91 ERA. However, he “had a strike-out renaissance. He struck out 72 in 59.1 IP, good enough for a 10.9 K/9 ratio, the highest of his career. He provides the Phillies’ bullpen with even more high heat than 2021. His fastball averaged 97 MPH in 2021.”
Similar to Hand, it would be hoped that Familia is used in a set-up role. He’s had his fair share of blown leads and saves in the past (see the 2015 World Series). This being said, he should thrive in less pressure situations if he can simply keep any type of command.
Corey Knebel was the first signing of the Phillies offseason, signing just a couple of days before the lockout. Dave Dombrowski and the Phillies gave Knebel a one-year, $10 million deal.
In recent years, he has had his fair share of injury issues. However, in 2017, Knebel led the league in appearances (76) and had an insane 1.74 ERA. He and his 39 saves led him to his first and only all-star game as a pro as well.
A few days ago, Phillies’ manager Joe Girardi stated that Knebel is their closer “as of now.” Assuming no one else that fits the role is signed, fully expect the 30-year-old right-hander to take over the 9th inning role to begin the season.
For the most part, Dombrowski has filled out the bullpen. These four will fit in with the rotation of Connor Brogdon, Jose Alvarado, Sam Coonrod, and others. All in all, the Phillies have spent about $22 million to fix their bullpen heading into 2022, so let’s hope they now direct their attention to the outfield.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire